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Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (2012)

Starring: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Sienna Guillory, Li Bingbing, Aryana Engineer, Johann Urb

Written and Directed By: Paul W.S. Anderson

The Short Version

The franchise finally makes the stylistic choice to return to its gaming roots.

If you’re looking for a deep plot, forget it; it’s not required, anyway.

Resident Evil: Retribution is one of those flicks where you either get it or you don’t.

Of course Milla Jovovich still kicks ass.

It’s thin but it’s fun: I like Resident Evil: Retribution.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

NACHO CHEESE DORITOS.

The official snack of gamers everywhere.


Pairs Well With...

SMIRNOFF ICE.

Six to twenty-four of these also qualify as a party in a box.

“Congratulations.  You’re officially a badass.”


Once upon a time, there was a video game franchise called “Resident Evil,” and it was popular.

Then the first Resident Evil movie hit theatres.  It made some fundamental alterations to things but remained recognizable to fans, merging a basic video game frame with a standard action movie structure.  This was also popular.

Three sequels followed, and though the Umbrella Corporation was still around and some familiar character names and creatures showed up from time to time, these Resident Evil movies essentially discarded their video game roots and went for the straight-up action flick formula.  Based on box office returns, each film proved to be more popular than the last, even though people kept complaining about the drift away from the old gaming origins. 

The commonly accepted belief is that even the complainers didn’t actually give a damn about the story anymore so long as they could pretend it made sense while Milla Jovovich kicked every ass in sight.

Enter the fifth installment: Resident Evil: Retribution, wherein all theories are tested.

First: Milla Jovovich kicks every ass in sight, and let me tell you, she swings one mean bicycle lock.

Second: the entire structure of the movie is exactly like that of a video game.

Third: the story behind it only makes sense if you really want it to and you’ve also sent Logic away for a couple of hours to go buy some ice cream.

It’s got the two major elements that people say they want out of these films, with the least amount of attention being paid to the third element that so many are convinced just doesn’t matter anymore.  Having just watched Resident Evil: Retribution today, I’m going to say that the end result is a “love it” or “hate it” proposition with little or no middle ground.

As for me?  I think it’s the most fun out of all of the Resident Evil sequels.

Like just about everyone else in the target audience, I’d have been reasonably happy with anything that allowed Milla Jovovich to kick ass for an hour and half, and hey, Resident Evil: Retribution delivers.  Milla’s got big guns.  Milla’s got little guns.  Milla’s got a big knife.  Milla’s got a nasty pair of hand axes.  Milla still punches, kicks, dodges, and parries with a dancer’s grace and ninja’s power.  Milla’s also got a new weapon of choice in one of the movie’s more fun fight sequences, and I’m calling that bicycle lock my favorite instrument of the film.  You want Milla Jovovich showing off her action prowess?  Here she is.  Rock you like a hurricane.

But there’s also more to her here, and I don’t just mean driving a Rolls Royce down an escalator and into a subway tunnel, either.  For those who care to notice, Milla Jovovich gets lots of chances to remind us that she can really act as well as kick ass.  There’s a (momentarily jarring, though that’s the point) sequence where she’s playing not a leather clad killing machine, but rather a Suzy Homemaker type (which, let’s face it, is the polar opposite of how we’re used to seeing her).  Totally different type, totally different performance; still nails it.  When this iteration of her character switches to a mode equivalent to a slasher’s Final Girl, she plays the action in a very different way than she does as The Alice We Know but that’s still perfectly suited to the situation.  Why yes, folks, the lady doth have range.

She’s also refined her Action Movie Wisecracking muscles, and she’s worked them to sufficient tone that she could hold her own with The Expendables.  And as far as screen chemistry goes…  just watch her with Aryana Engineer.  That’s all I’m going to say.

So, Milla Jovovich win factor?  Check.

Now for the part that will either have people grinning or have them reaching for the vegetable matter.

If you’ve played a modern adventure video game – RPG, shooter; doesn’t matter – you’re aware of the basic structure that’s at play for Resident Evil: Retribution.

It starts with a very nice credit cinematic.  (In this case, the opening action sequence played out in slow motion reverse; interesting choice.)  Then there’s a cutscene introducing our protagonist.  (We think, anyway.)  And then, the game begins.

Our protagonist – in this case, Milla as Alice – finds herself in some deep, dark hole with just a few moments to escape.  There’s some equipment that just popped out of the wall for her to use to gear up.  (For of course, she starts the game wearing nothing but two sheets of paper.)  She puts her clothes on, runs out the door, and then escapes an easy trap to find herself in an environment that does not in any way resemble the one she just left.  There, she loots some found objects to serve as her first basic weapons, and then the Game Boss takes notice of her and releases the first wave of mobs.  Play level (no boss on the noob level), move to explanatory cutscene, find a convenient cabinet full of weapons, play on.  From there, it’s a steady pattern: levels that do not look like they belong next door to each other at all (Moscow’s down the hall from Tokyo, for example), with mobs and level bosses and custscenes in between.  The cutscenes do put forward a story, but the story is paper thin, and has many logical inconsistencies to it if you’ve played that games that come before.  [By the way, the intro to Resident Evil: Retribution plays a good enough catch-up summary that you can come into this one cold, if you’re so inclined.]  But the story doesn’t really seem to matter; all that’s important is that the protagonist hops from one level to the next until she reaches the point of the Final Battle, which may or may not be with the Game Boss.  Our protagonist then proceeds to the final cutscene that introduces the producers’ intentions for the next Expansion Pack.

If you’re a gamer, you’ll catch this structure right away, and you’re home free.  You’ll “get it.”  If you’re not, this is going to look like very bad filmmaking and a godawful excuse for a plot.  If that’s the case, you’re thinking too much.  While the Game Structure originally took its cues from Traditional Movies, it has since evolved so that it’s a few degrees away from Traditional Movies, and that can be jarring.  But that doesn’t mean that using this structure for a movie is “bad.”  Indeed, in this case, it’s a rather inspired artistic choice, and I came away happier for the use of it, because it opens up a lot of possibilities that I’m not going to discuss here for spoiler avoidance purposes, but which effectively make Resident Evil: Retribution the fun movie that it is.

And yes, it's expository in the extreme (everything gets explained out loud), but that's part of the Game Structure, so I don't mind it here. I don’t even mind the part that blatantly lifts from Aliens.  To be honest, I like this better.

I do mind the return of the squid mouth zombies, but their appearance is, fortunately, brief.  Those specific zombies aside, the CG when present is reasonably obvious but acceptable (and largely tentacle free).  The stunts are a blast, the pacing is super quick, and the direction is solid.  Hell, even the stereoscope is nicely done.  (Catch the Imax 3D print if you can.)  Add Milla Jovovich to the equation and you get the most satisfyingly fun of the Resident Evil sequels.

Bottom line, Resident Evil: Retribution doesn’t play by standard cinema rules and therefore won’t be to everyone’s taste, but for me, it’s a party in a box.  Milla Jovovich kicks ass, and the gamer format that Paul W.S. Anderson uses for the film is just plain fun.  It’s a must for franchise fans, and also enjoyable for newcomers with open minds who understand that video game stories never have closed endings.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, September 14, 2012

One Year Anniversary of The Doom Cheez Cinema


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